Do people always ask you the same questions? That’s a great sign because it means they look to you as an expert! But it can also be a bit of a pain. You’re busy! Repeating your tips and advice over and over can be exhausting.
This can be a great reason to write an ebook. Whether it’s for sale or free, your ebook can help others get the answers they want—without eating up all of your time. But writing a great ebook—one that is worthy of your name on the cover—isn’t as simple as pulling up a word document and writing the words down. So, what do you do?
Here are five key questions to ask to help you write an ebook.
1) What’s your goal with the ebook?
Perhaps you want to offer your ebook for free in exchange for an e-mail address – a lead magnet, or in an author’s case, a reader magnet.
Or, maybe you plan to sell it on Amazon, Blurb, Kobo, or on one of the many other ebook platforms (more on this in a minute).
If you’re selling the book for a fee, what is your goal? Is it to gain some exposure with a certain audience or to build more credibility? If credibility is your goal, consider whether you want to create a print book to go with the ebook. Print books tend to add to the credibility factor more than just an ebook alone.
Or, maybe your ebook will feed directly into your business as part of a larger sales funnel or as part of an online course you’re building. These days, many authors are choosing to deliver ebooks on an online course platform like Thinkific along with other relevant training for their audience.
As a course creator, one of the smartest things you can do is pre-sell your course before you build it – or at least before you build all of it! That way you can be certain people will actually pull out their credit card and pay you for the course. When you do this, you should offer them something to work on while you get the first lesson ready. That’s where an ebook that kicks off your course can be of enormous value!
2) Who is your ideal reader?
Let’s say you want to write a book about weight loss. If you start to answer this question by thinking… “my ideal readers are guys between the ages of 20 and 50 who want to lose weight…”, stop right there. This is simply not specific enough to be effective.
And if you’re thinking, “my book will help everyone,” well then you really need to do more research! If you think your product, book or service will help everyone, I can assure you it will appeal to no one.
Very few products have universal appeal. Your tips, advice, ebook and online course won’t either.
Rather than taking a broad approach, you need to go a few levels deeper by doing research to validate your audience in order to understand the motivations, pain points, likes and dislikes they have.
Start by asking your target audience these questions to paint a more detailed picture of who they are. Make a point to identify which thought leaders your ideal readers are influenced by, the videos and shows they’re already watching, and where they hang out online and in person.
Once you do this, you’ll have a much better idea of who you’re writing your ebook for.
Let’s look at another example. Maybe you want to write an ebook containing seven secrets to help men grow their hair back. Do you think all bald men would be your audience? Probably not.
For example, my dad is a bald man in his seventies, and his solution for a bald head is a hat to keep the sun off. He’s not interested in growing his hair back.
However, your ebook may appeal to someone who feels like he is getting passed over for promotions at work because he lacks hair. Or the recently divorced man who wants to find love again and thinks he needs a fuller head of hair to be lucky in love. These men would be the perfect candidates.
With this deeper knowledge of who they are and why they might care about your tips, you can start to see how you might connect with them through your content and marketing.
In the case of this ebook, you could aim to connect to bloggers or podcasters who focus on career development or provide support for the recently divorced. You could probably develop an idea of how you would set up an ad campaign through Facebook or Google to promote your ebook, and the type of audience targeting you would choose.
If you can’t visualize how you’ll reach your ideal readers, then you aren’t clear enough on who you are creating content for.
– Julie Broad, Founder of Booklaunchers
3) What’s the hook of your ebook?
When I talk about the idea of a hook, I’m usually helping authors write full-length manuscripts that could land on the shelves of their local bookstores or Barnes & Noble. But the same thing applies to ebooks.
The hook is the single thread that ties your book together, creates curiosity, and sells the work. If you don’t have a good hook, you’re going to struggle to give this book away for free, let alone sell it as a stand-alone or as part of your online course.
Ultimately the hook comes down to a simple question from the reader’s perspective: what’s in it for me?
For an ebook, a simple way to think about this is in the form of a headline. What’s the ad going to be for this book? Or, possibly, what is the title of the ebook going to be?
Going back to the weight loss concept mentioned earlier, you’re not just going to share a book on weight loss for men. You need something with a juicy hook that appeals to the things we’re all looking for–even on a subconscious level—such as love, fulfillment, money, attractiveness, power, influence. And of course, the less we have to do to get these things, the better.
So, your weight loss ebook or online course isn’t about dropping pounds, it’s about:
- The Sports Fans Guide: 30 Days to Drop Pounds While Gaining Muscle and Not Giving Up Chips and Beer
- From Flabby to Flexing Muscles that Make Your Friends Jealous: The Guide to Losing Weight When You’re on the Road All the Time
- Fit and Fifty…It’s Not Too Late to Get Your Ideal Body: The Guide to Drop Pounds, Have More Energy, and Not Hurt Doing It
Do you see how each hook speaks directly to a certain type of person and identifies something that is a little different than what he or she may have tried or heard before?
You need to think about marketing before you start writing, and the hook of the ebook is a great place to start.
Need more proof?
Timothy Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, isn’t really about working four hours a week. It’s a comprehensive game plan to ditch the 9-to-5 gig from a cubicle and create a business that supports you living an exciting, adventurous life.
Now, that’s a good hook.
Harv Ecker’s Secrets of the Millionaire Mind asks the following question: Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get rich easily, while others are destined for a life of financial struggle?
This creates curiosity and suggests that if you know the answer, you could be a millionaire. That’s a great hook.
Here are a few questions to help you get to your hook:
- What is the common theme everyone in your industry talks about or all the major books in your niche are talking about?
- What do you believe that is different?
- What have you experienced that goes against some of the common advice?
- What’s the problem you will solve?
- How do you solve it in a way that others haven’t yet?
4) Brainstorm everything you will cover in your ebook
Once you’ve got your goal, your audience, and your hook laid out, you can go ahead and brainstorm everything that you plan on covering.
What are the steps you will take your readers through to get the results? What resources do you recommend? If you have stories or case studies, note those here too. Just write bullet points at first so you know what you’re going to cover. Keep your goal top of mind when writing your ebook, so you’re best positioned to take the next steps once your ebook is done:
Be careful to align your ebook with your goal. If you plan to turn your ebook into a printed book, you should keep the topic organization and length in mind when writing. You’ll want chapters and ideally, at least 25,000 words so it can be printed into a book with a spine big enough to put the title on it.
Preselling an online course
If you want to use the ebook as a free lead magnet to get new clients, make sure the ebook will give the reader a result that he or she can achieve by reading it. If you can show them how they can get a win with a short ebook, they’ll be hungry to buy and complete the rest of your online course. If you’re offering up your ebook as part of your online course preselling process, they’ll be incentivized to jump into the rest of your course content.
Free lead magnet
Free ebooks can help attract new clients for consulting or coaching, and to buy your products or services. In this case, it’s not about creating a fluffy marketing piece—people will see through that. Give them something of true value that will benefit them when they read it and use your material. When you do this, you don’t have to be super salesy. You want your reader to say “what else do you have to offer me?” because they’ll know you’re an expert who can help them!
Related article: Hear from author Alli Worthington on how she uses online courses to deliver free resources like ebooks as lead magnets for her business.
Selling on ebook platforms
If you want to use the ebook to sell on a platform like Amazon, I highly recommend doing some keyword research to position your topic to be one people are searching for. I love Publisher Rocket for this kind of research, but there several ebook research tools like KDSpy and even Google Keyword Planner Tool that will also help.
Most importantly, find what makes you unique. In fact, you can even write down the most common pieces of advice given in your industry to your ideal reader, including everything you disagree with! Now that’s where things get interesting.
Organize this content brainstorm into your subheadings – or if you’re going big and making this into a small book, then you may need chapters and subheadings. If you want help with creating a great outline and table of contents for your ebook I recommend this article on overcoming writers block with an outline and video on great ways to start a chapter.
5) Get the words for your ebook on the page
Write! Or if you prefer to talk it out, there are plenty of options these days. My favorite right now is using a service like Temi.com to transcribe your voice notes. It’s a speech recognition software that costs 10 cents a minute. You get a speech to text transcription within five minutes, and it’s pretty accurate. There are plenty of voice-to-text programs available now that you can use, like Dragon Dictation or Voice Dictation on your Mac. Google even has a voice-to-text option in Google Docs for free!
Regardless, you need to get all your thoughts out of your head and onto the page.
If you’re writing with a computer, the best tip I can offer is don’t reread what you’ve written, just keep going. When you wrap up a writing session for the day, set up a prompt so you know where to pick up next time you sit down—this way, you won’t have an excuse to reread what you’ve written.
Your first goal when you’re writing anything is to create a bad first draft. Whether you’re writing an article, an ebook, an online course, or a full-length book manuscript, you should aim to hit the bad first draft as quickly as possible and then go back and make it as good as it can be.
After you’ve written your first draft, you’ll have time to reread the ebook and make sure you’ve hit the most important parts, included enough stories, and communicated your most important messages. Don’t worry too much about whether it’s good or not. It’s probably not that good right now, but that’s what editors are for!
Your first goal when you’re writing anything is to create a bad first draft. Whether it’s an article, ebook, or online course, aim to hit the bad first draft as quickly as possible. Then go back and make it as good as it can be.
– Julie Broad, Founder of Booklaunchers
6) Hire an ebook editor before you hire a designer
We’re unable to edit our own work. Our brain knows what the sentence is supposed to say, so it will mask mistakes. If you read what you’ve written out loud, you’ll catch a lot more errors, but the reality is that a copy editor can dig into your draft and make it better a lot more effectively and efficiently. There are plenty of places to hire editors. You can start with Reedsy, a site dedicated to book professionals. You can also try your local editing association or a contractor hiring site like Guru or Upwork. Regardless, you do need to hire someone to give your material a good edit before you go to the next step of designing it for download.
Related article: Need more insight on how and when to hire a freelancer to help edit your work? Check out this guide on how to hire and work with freelancers.
7) Decide on ebook distribution before you hire a designer
There are more than a dozen options for distribution of an ebook these days, so the first thing you need to decide is where are you want to distribute the book. Here are a few common ways, along with some unique requirements to be aware of.
Your own online course platform
If your goal is to write an ebook as part of a funnel into your online course or to use it as a lead magnet to build your email list, you may want to distribute it through your own system on a platform like Thinkific. That’s great. You can keep design simple and just focus on creating an emailable PDF file that looks great.
Ebook sales platform
If you’re thinking about selling your ebook on a dedicated ebook platform, then you have to look into the unique requirements of the platforms you want to sell on.
For example, if you plan to sell through Kindle, you can use a Word document and a service called Kindle Create to convert to an ePub file. That said, if you have done any work in Google Docs or any sort of designing on a Word document, this type of free converter is likely to be very difficult. You may want to hire an affordable designer on Fivver.com, Guru, or Upwork to manually create a nice looking ePub file.
Ebook distribution service
If you want to use an ebook distribution service like Book Funnel or an aggregator like Publish Drive or Draft2Digital, you will need to research the file types they accept and make sure you’re all set with those instructions before you design your files. A little research will go a long way.
Once your ebook is done, the hard work begins of letting people know the book exists. The same marketing strategies you use for your business, online course, and other offerings are going to be the best thing you can do here. Keep in mind that if you upload your ebook to Kindle, you can do a few extra things on Amazon to drive more traffic to your page – including setting up an Amazon Author Page and running Amazon ads.
The good news is that you now have somewhere to direct people when they come to you asking those same old questions! You can say, “Yes! I’ve covered that in this ebook right here.”
Written by Julie Broad
Julie Broad is the founder of Book Launchers, a professional self-publishing company that will help you write, publish, and promote a business-boosting, non-fiction book. If you think your ebook should be a full-length book, download Julie’s free guide on the 7 Steps to Write a Non-Fiction Book that Sells here: www.booklaunchers.com/7steps